Copenhagen is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Copenhagen (Danish: København)  is the capital of Denmark and what a million Danes call home. This "friendly old girl of a town" is big enough to be a metropolis with shopping, culture and nightlife par excellence, yet still small enough to be intimate, safe and easy to navigate. Overlooking the Øresund strait with Sweden just minutes away, it is a cultural and geographic link between mainland Europe and Scandinavia. This is where old fairy tales blend with flashy new architecture and world-class design; where warm jazz mixes with cold electronica from Copenhagen's basements. You'll feel you've seen it all in a day, but could keep on discovering more for months.
Downtown, Centrum, The Medieval city - a place of many names, but it is the historical heart of Copenhagen, dotted with church spires, historic buildings, narrow alleys and excellent shopping.
Originally laid out as a working class neighbourhood 300 years ago, it is now a thriving area notable for its many canals. The Freetown of Christiania is situated in the eastern section of Christianshavn, along with the old naval area, turned trendy: Holmen.
This district still has its share of sex shops and sleazy hotels, but has evolved tremendously in recent years and is now one of the hippest places to live, with cafes and bars dotted along its main artery, Istedgade.
A small town which originally formed around Frederiksberg castle, this area is still a separate municipality. Literally surrounded by the City of Copenhagen, it has preserved a special conservative, upscale feel.
The most vibrant part of Copenhagen, especially along the main artery, Nørrebrogade, with a mix of immigrants, students, and original working-class Nørrebro-inhabitants.
A cozy neighbourhood north of the center. Less vibrant than Nørrebro and Vesterbro, and less quaint than Frederiksberg, it is the home of the famous Little Mermaid statue, and the beautifully preserved Kastellet citadel.
Once a bastion of the working class, this island with its own distinct atmosphere is booming with new development. Also home of the airport.
A visit to these green suburbs and Dyrehavsbakken, — the world's oldest running amusement park; Frilandsmuseet — the world's largest open air museum; or canoeing down the Mill River, will leave no doubt that this is an altogether different kind of suburbia. It is often colloquially known to locals as the "whisky belt", due to its often well-heeled residents.
The suburbs west and south of the city, short on attractions apart from the good Arken art museum, it has some good beaches and camping opportunities.
If you had dropped by Copenhagen in the eleventh century you would have found yourself looking over a quite small fishing hamlet, with some lazy cattle gazing back at you while chewing fresh green grass from the meadows around the village. Looking east you would see a host of small islets protecting the small fishing harbour from harsh weather — really not the worst place to found a city. If you would rather trust the written word than the archaeologists, the earliest accounts date from the twelfth century, when a bearded clerk (or a renowned historian if you will) called Saxo Gramaticus scribbled down a few lines about the place, Portus Mercatorum, he called it, which was really just a fancy Latin version of Købmannahavn. This has since been mangled into København in modern Danish, and even further mangled into Copenhagen in English, but all it really means is "merchant harbour."
Around 1160 AD, King Valdemar handed over control of the city to the archbishop of Roskilde, Absalon, one of the most colourful characters of the Middle Ages — a curious mix of great churchman, statesman, and warrior. As the country's only city not under the king's control, Absalon saw it thrive and erected a castle on what is today Slotsholmen (the remains are still visible in the catacombs under the present day parliament). As a man of religion he also built a great church, and with those necessities taken care of, Copenhagen quickly gained importance as a natural stop between the two most important Danish cities, the old royal capital Roskilde and Lund in present day Sweden. Endowed with an enviable location on the banks of the important Øresund Strait, it slowly but steadily surpassed the old urban centers. Copenhagen's rise was greatly aided by entrepreneurial trading with friends and foes alike and by prosperous fishing which provided much of Roman Catholic Europe with salted herring for Lent. But with prosperity comes envy and in the years to follow Copenhagen was laid waste and pillaged time and time again, mainly by the German Hanseatic League, which at one point completely destroyed the city.
In case you are wondering about exactly what is so wonderful about Copenhagen, the city's motto is taken from the Frank Loesser song Wonderful Copenhagen featured in the 1952 film Hans Christian Andersen. Sung by Danny Kaye it's a bit of an evergreen, and not accustomed to Hollywood attention the city has stuck to it ever since — what also seems to have stuck is the pronunciation, but don't listen to old Danny, it's koh-pehn-HAY-gehn not koh-pehn-HAH-gehn.
But like a phoenix, Copenhagen repeatedly rose from the ashes. When the Danes kicked out the Pope during the reformation, Roskilde lost its importance as a Roman bishopric and after taking control of the city twenty years earlier, the king moved his residence to Copenhagen. Not terribly keen on seeing their new capital laid waste once more, successive kings built massive fortifications around the city. None more so than King Christian IV, who embarked on a building rampage which not only included the ramparts still visible throughout much of the city but also many present day landmarks like the Round Tower and the stock exchange. Since then Copenhagen was besieged by the Swedes, and then famously bombarded, set ablaze, and nearly destroyed by the British vice admiral Lord Nelson, who in one of two battles for Copenhagen, famously responded to the order to withdraw by saying "You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes," and then raised the telescope to his blind eye and touted "I really do not see the signal."
Again, the city shook off its struggles and the population mushroomed during industrialization. When a cholera epidemic did a fine job of killing nearly everyone there wasn't room for, the King finally conceded that long range cannons would render its constraining walls irrelevant, and thus allowed the city to grow outside the now antiquated ramparts. But it was not long before a new modern fortification was built (known as Vestvolden today), which made Copenhagen Europe's most fortified city of the late nineteenth century.
After being subjected to yet another invasion during WWII, the whole idea of a fortified city was thrown out the window and replaced with one of the finest examples of urban planning anywhere — the Finger Plan. Copenhagen is one of few cities in the world to devise a long term plan for growth and then actually stick to it; try placing your hand over a map of Copenhagen with the palm as the city centre, and it's quite obvious why it's called the finger plan. Despite being the laughingstock of the country through the seventies and eighties when wealthy residents all moved out into the fingers, leaving behind an impoverished bankrupt city, a visit these days will prove that the Phoenix has risen once more.
Pelle the Conqueror (Martin Andersen Nexø, 1906-10). An epic novel in three parts and an integral part of the Danish school curriculum portraying the life of two poor Swedish immigrants — a father and son. The two last volumes take place in Copenhagen and describe the rise and the conflicts of the labour movement and global socialism which are so crucial to understanding Danish society today. All in all, it's a very good historical account of life in the city during that period, and above all, a good book.
Smilla's Sense of Snow (Peter Høeg, 1992). Dive into Denmark's curious post-colonial history in this international best seller. Partly set in Copenhagen, partly in Greenland, you are whirled through a murder mystery by Ms. Smilla, a half Danish Inuit brought up in poor Greenland, but now living in the kingdom's affluent and orderly capital. It is a good account of the conflicts and contrasts between two very different parts of the Kingdom, and it offers some spot-on social critique of Danish society in a very engaging way.
The Copenhagen Quartet (Thomas E. Kennedy). Four independent novels totaling well over a thousand pages. Each book is set against the backdrop of one of the four distinct seasons of the Danish capital: Kerrigan's Copenhagen (2002), Bluett's Blue Hours (2003), Greene's Summer (2004), and Danish Fall (2005). The novelist, an American expat, somewhat autobiographically portrays an American writer trying to come to terms with his past with the help of Copenhagen's many bars, with the Danish capital as the co-star. All of the places described in the books are real places that you can go discover.
Copenhagen, as in the rest of Denmark, has four distinct seasons. The best time to visit is definitely the warm period from early May to late August. The current weather forecast can be checked at the Danish Meteorological Institute website .
Spring, while a bit risky, as no one knows quite when it sets in, can be the best time to visit the city. On the first warm day, usually in early May, Copenhageners come out of hibernation and flock to the city streets, parks, and outdoor cafes in a veritable explosion of life, relieved that the country's dreary and dark winters are finally over. Many locals consider this the high-point of the year.
Summers in Copenhagen are usually warm with an average temperature of some twenty degrees, and the days are long — reaching the a peak of eighteen hours on the 21st of June. If the weather becomes too hot, you can jump in one of the free pools in the cool harbor waters downtown. Copenhagen's harbor is often considered the world's cleanest urban waterfront. Most of Copenhagen's annual events are held during June and July, and when the sun is out there is always life in the streets.
Autumn and winter have a profound effect on the city. The vibrant summer life withers and the streets go quiet, as most Copenhageners go directly home from work. This is where the Danish concept of hygge sets in, roughly translating into coziness. It is the local way of dealing with the short dark days. Friends and families visit each other for home cooking and conversations by candlelight with quiet music on the stereo. In week 42 the Danes have an autumn holiday, with many events taking place, such as the night of culture. The height of winter is December, where Christmas brings some relief to the short days, with lights and decorations everywhere, in the streets, shops and in peoples' windows. Tivoli opens its doors for the Christmas markets, and most Danes go on a drinking rampage, with the very Danish and traditional Christmas